“I have been living with panic attacks, anxiety, and bipolar disorder type I. I was diagnosed with panic attacks, anxiety, and depression when I was 13. Then I was diagnosed with bipolar type 2 at age 16, and finally, bipolar disorder type 1 when I was 22.
It all officially started when I was ten years old. I had been learning how to swim and was feeling very nervous and anxious. Although I didn’t know it at the time, that was my first panic attack.
I had always been a quiet, anxious child. When I was 12 the panic attacks became worse and I would refuse to go to school. I would refuse to eat anything and my mother gave me protein shakes. I remember on more than one occasion wishing I could simply disappear. The next few years I would alternate from severe anxiety to depression. I was given an anti-anxiety medication which helped some. Then when I was 16 I started experiencing mania. For me, mania was feeling like I could do anything. Suddenly everything was better, brighter, and more beautiful. Until it wasn’t.
I would have these ideas and projects that I had to do because everything was so important. Then I would become irritated, angry, and frustrated until finally, my body would collapse into a deep depression because I’d be exhausted from little or no sleep.
I lost friends during my manic episodes. I was put on a mood stabiliser, but not enough of it. I still experienced mood swings, even if they were less severe. Finally, after I began therapy again when I was 22, my therapist suggesting switching psychiatrists. It is very important to have a psychiatrist who will listen to what is going on with you and willing to help you find medications that will work for you. A few months after trying new medications with my psychiatrist, I found that Lithium along with my other medications really helped. I haven’t had a full-blown manic episode in years and my depression has definitely been lifted.
Things that help me are being honest with myself and knowing what triggers my moods. I’m lucky to have a great psychiatrist and therapist who have helped me come up with emergency plans (including emergency medicines to take) when I’m feeling mania, depression, or anxiety coming on. My psychiatrist also recommends dietary supplements that help with the side effects of my medications. I go to therapy every week and see my psychiatrist at least every three months.
I find that the best self-care is personal hygiene, getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising (I prefer pilates and yoga). Also, doing things that you enjoy, for me these are things like, writing, reading, watching Netflix, and hanging out with positive people. Another thing I’ve found to helpful is to be open about my mental health. I started a blog last year where I talk about living with bipolar disorder. It’s been helpful to express myself publicly because I no longer feel ashamed about having a mental illness. It makes me feel very happy when people respond to my blog posts because I don’t feel like I’m the only one out there dealing with all the struggles that come along with mental illness. I also am glad to help others.
One final thing: Don’t let anyone tell you that you are less of a person because of your mental illness. If anything, you have gone through more than most people will ever understand. That makes you that much more strong, brave, and amazing. Above all, be kind to yourself, you deserve it.
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